At the cozy Saptaparni open air amphitheatre in Hyderabad, amidst a crowd evidently made up of approving friends and relatives, 13-year-old J. Siddhartha Viswanathan kicked off his concert organised by Tarang, an organisation that promotes young talent in the city, with the kriti Mooladharakshetra sthita in Mayamalavagowla. The first thing that strikes you about Siddhartha is his clean and crisp singing. It is devoid of gimmicks and the diction mostly flawless. The greater emphasis on the sahitya and pronunciation sometimes comes at the cost of shruti. Now, Mooladhara… is not a kriti kriti you hear often in concerts and it was pretty refreshing to see a 13-year-old dusting it out.
He then moved on to another less widely sung kritikriti, Lavanya Rama kanulara a Thyagaraja composition set in the raga Purnashadjam. In fact his song list for the evening, and choice of ragas (Thodi, Pantuvarali, Karaharapriya) seemed a fairly “adult” and cerebral. These are territories even the most accomplished artistes treat with great caution. While Siddhartha negotiated them well, the sailing was not altogether smooth. For instance, in the elaborate Thodi raga aalapana, there were occasions when he seemed to run out of breath. It appears that the young boy’s minders are keen that he is constantly seen to be punching far above his weight. But there were several instances where he showed his age. When it was the turn of his accompanying artistes to play solo, Siddhartha would sit with hands on his chin as if bored by his moments of inaction.
Violinist Rajashekhar deserves special mention as he often stole the show for instance during the Muthuswamy Dikshitar kriti Pamarajana Palini in Simhendramadhayamam. Rajashekhar’s experience in the craft was evident in his equally brilliant Thodi as well. The other seasoned performers, T.P. Balasubramaniam on the mridangam and Janardhan on the ghatam played their part with effortless ease. Siddhartha, ended the concert with the serene and pleasant Swati Tirunal bhajan in Sindhu Bhairavi called Vishweshwara Darshan. In the years to come one will certainly hear more about young Siddhartha, if he can survive the hyperbole.